Tissue engineering is a vibrant research field poised to revolutionize how we heal organs and tissues following damage from injury and disease. One of the difficulties that scientists working with cultured cells discover is the inability to closely monitor a number of characteristics of their cellular cultures. One reason is that water and electronics don’t mix, so technologies that would be useful in monitoring cells can be hard to implement.
Now, engineers at Purdue University have developed a way to let electronic sensors make intimate contact with a cell culture while separating the functional electric components completely from its liquid medium.
This is made possible thanks to a 3D “instrumented” scaffold that can float on top of cell culture medium. It is flexible, and so conforms to the shape of the cellular culture below, making contact with it as closely as possible. The fragile electronics can remain on the other side of the scaffold, away from any liquid that would cause interference.
The researchers have already tested their system by recording electrical cell-substrate impedance and electrophysiological signals for weeks at a time on a number of cultures.
In the future, the technology may help with engineered tissue research, drug discovery, and drug screening applications.
Here’s a short video from Purdue University showing off the technology: